The Avon Theatre of Stamford was the first theater. in this Connecticut town and once again serves as an entertainment and cultural hub. The theater opened in 1939 and showed the latest films from Hollywood. While most downtown theaters closed during the 1970s and 1980s, the Avon managed to operate until 1999. After the theater closed, the Royce Foundation help preserve the building and supported the creation of a non-profit cinema with a focus on artistic and historic films.
Opening on June 15th of 1939, the Avon Theatre’s first showing was “It’s a Wonderful World,” starring James Stewart and Claudette Colbert. Constructed by Weiss Amusement Company to match plans drawn by architect William I. Hohauser, the interior calls back to an older-style of theater design that mirrors live theater interiors. Painted murals decorate the side-walls of the Avon interior and have been preserved well to this day.
The exterior strongly exhibits the Colonial Revival style, with cleanly-structured brick, marble decorations, and austere white columns framing the entrance. The upper-level windows are cleanly-cut, octagonal port windows while the lower-level windows are tall, rectangular, and ornately framed. These anachronistic trappings make the Avon Theatre stand out beautifully amidst other structures on Bedford.
From 1939 until 1999, the Avon Theatre was operated as a commercial theatre, showing popular films of the time until business no longer allowed for a single-screen theater to flourish profitably. Between 1999 and 2001, the Theatre was vacant. In 2001, Deborah and Charles Royce of the Royce Foundation purchased the building with the intent to re-open it as an art-house theater.
From 2001 to 2004, the Avon Theatre underwent preservative renovations. The Royce family purchased new flooring, equipment, and audience seating while investing in preserving the interior design, specifically the interior murals.
In 2004, the Avon Theatre reopened with renewed purpose – to bring historical, artistic, and rare films to the people of Stamford. In this way, the Avon Theatre has continued to be a cultural touchstone for the city, representing a persevering heart at the center of Stamford. The Avon Theatre is the home of community events of all types, many of which are designed to attract residents whose interests do not include historic film. In addition, the Theatre now hosts themed film nights which have attracted the attention of even Hollywood’s most well-recognized actors. Having continued to operate for nearly a century, the Avon Theatre has acted as a cultural focal point for generations of Stamford natives.